Update: As of Monday, April 20, the paperback edition of Forgiving Jake is now available to order from Amazon via its American, British, Canadian, and Australian markets.
We are all trying to maintain a version of normality while we stay at home to slow down the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic which has made the world look and feel like some near-future science fiction novel. However, one of the easiest ways to relax and forget the world is to read, and I’m currently splitting my time between a few books for whenever I get a free moment between the day job and home renovations.
Living in Belfast during my early twenties had a profound effect on how I see Irish identities and politics, and it was an experience I look back upon with fondness. Living just off the Dublin Road in a loyalist part of south-central Belfast, however, meant that there were some flags, murals, and other emblems that would’ve made the inexperienced southerner (as I was when I moved there first) pretty nervous.
I’ll try to avoid every typical phrase used about the Irish language or the Gaeltacht that you might see from school essays to the comments section on certain news sites. The matter is far too serious to use such platitudes. Instead, I’ll try to tackle the issue head-on to find a potential solution.
When I went to university, I was in a very lucky and privileged position. I had been encouraged by my parents to choose a degree course that I would enjoy, and not just one which may contribute to my career (which, at the time, I was certain would be in broadcasting). My first choice on my CAO form was Business through Irish, a course which I thought would combine my passion for the Irish language with a supposedly practical business degree. When I got my Leaving Cert results, however, I didn’t pass the minimum requirement in maths to get a place on that course, so I went with my second option of Arts at University College Dublin.
Déanfaidh mé sár-iarracht anseo gan aon cliché faoin nGaeltacht – na cinn a fheiceann tú in aon aiste ollscoile – a úsáid anseo. Tá an cás níos práinní agus tábhachtaí chun a leithéid a dhéanamh. In ionad sin, déanfaidh mé iarracht tabhairt faoin bhfadhb agus, más féidir, an réiteach.
Most of us have, at some point in our lives, heard the advice: The three things you should never discuss with people are politics, religion, and money. I’ve often thought that the Irish never got the memo on such a rule, because for a country which almost makes a national sport out of referenda and elections, we often discuss the actions, statements, and flaws of our politicians. We’ve seen debate on whether or not certain manifestations of local or national government should even exist; in Ireland, those debates have recently ranged from having directly-elected city mayors to whether or not we abolish our Seanad. We so often hear dismissive statements in the pub or on the street that politicans are “all the same”; they’re “only interested in lining their pockets” or “getting their cushy pension” and they’re “all a shower of wasters”. The same lines have been exclaimed by frustrated citizens for generations, yet rarely is an alternative to the situation proposed, let alone one agreed upon.